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A high-protein diet is essential to a functioning metabolism and is even more important for children than adults.
Children between 4 and 13 years old should consume between 0.35 and 0.45 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day.
Teenagers should get at least half a gram of protein per pound of body weight.
These numbers can be difficult to reach if your child is a picky eater.
By understanding what foods provide large concentrations protein and designing your child’s diet around them, you can give them the nutrients they need to grow up strong.
Encourage your child to drink milk
An 8-ounce glass of milk provides about 8 grams of protein.
It is also a prime source of calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggests 3 glasses of milk per day for children under the age of 9.
If your child is not fond of milk, try mixing in a small amount of chocolate syrup to make chocolate milk.
If your child is lactose intolerant, introduce them to soy, almond, or coconut milk.
These milks are also high in protein and usually fortified with calcium and potassium.
Feed them eggs
One egg provides about 6 grams (0.2 oz) of protein. They are also rich in Vitamins A and B, Omega-3, and Lutein, which improves eyesight.
Poaching and hard-boiling are the healthiest ways to prepare eggs.
However, scrambling and frying are also fine options, although they will require some butter or oil.
Find out what your child prefers.
Include protein-rich fruit.
Fruit generally doesn’t have much protein but there are a few exceptions.
Figs, prunes, raisins, apricots, melon, nectarines, peaches, bananas, and avocadoes each provide between 1 and 3 grams of protein per cup.
They also include a variety of vitamins, antioxidants, and other valuable nutrients.
Try to work in at least one serving of protein-rich fruit per day.
Offer your child a protein-rich cereal or oatmeal
Some whole grain cereals are high in protein and fiber to give your child energy and keep them feeling full well into the day.
Try offering a high-protein cereal to your child for breakfast.
Some good brands for high-protein cereal include Kashi Go Lean, Special K, Nature’s Path, Post Selects, Kind Health, Quaker Oats, and Cascadian Farms.
Avoid cereals with added sugar or candy like marshmallows or chocolate.
If your child doesn’t enjoy these cereals or oatmeal, add in fruit or a small amount of cinnamon or honey for flavor.
Add a nutritional supplement drink.
If you are worried that your child is not getting enough protein, then adding a nutritional supplement drink may be helpful.
However, make sure that you talk you’re your child’s pediatrician or a dietitian before adding a nutritional supplement to your child’s diet.
Some options include:
Feed them lean meats.
Meat is extremely high in protein.
One cup of chicken or turkey has about 38 grams (1 oz) of protein and about 25 grams (0.9 oz) for pork, beef, and tuna.
Try to work at least half a cup of meat into their diet per day.
Broiling in or over water and baking in the oven are the healthiest ways to cook meat and will help retain most of the protein and vitamins.
Avoid deep fried meats.
Offer whole grain breads.
2 slices of whole grain bread will have about 7 grams (0.2 oz) of protein.
Use whole grain bread to make meat or cheese sandwiches or serve it as toast with a small cut of butter.
Prepare legumes as a side dish.
Beans, lentils, and chick peas make for a healthy, high protein side dish.
Tofu and edamame dip, both coming from the soy bean, are also high in protein.
One cup of beans or hummus provides between 15 and 25 gram protein.
Some children may not like the taste of lentils so try mixing them with other foods like chopped meat, cheese, and/or rice.
You can also add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, cumin, oregano, or pepper.
Feed them peanut butter.
Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein at 8 grams (0.28 oz) per tablespoon and a favorite among children.
Peanut butter on crackers, baby carrots, and celery sticks all make for excellent snacks.
You can also go with the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a meal.
Peanut butter is high in cholesterol so it shouldn’t be fed to them every day.
Try to limit peanut butter to no more than four days per week.
Buy peanut butter brands with the “trans-free” label to avoid unhealthy trans fats.
Offer them yogurt.
Yogurt is an excellent source of light protein that you can feed your child between meals.
The best kind is Greek yogurt which packs roughly 15 grams (0.5 oz) of protein per container.
Encourage them to snack on cheese
An individual slice of american cheese or a stick of string cheese both have about 7 grams (0.2 oz) of protein.
String cheese, individual-sized cheese wheels, or grilled cheese sandwich make great snacks and many children love them.
Cottage cheese has the highest concentration of protein at roughly 12 grams (0.4 oz) of protein per snack container.
Provide nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with protein, vitamins and many other nutrients and can be easily served as a snack.
Try to work half a cup of nuts or seeds, at roughly 13 grams (0.5 oz) of protein, into their diet every day.
Nuts have a lot of same amino acids and vitamins as meat so they should be heavily emphasized in your child’s diet if they’re vegetarian.
Almonds, pecans, and cashews are the best nuts because they also include calcium, magnesium, fiber, and a host of essential vitamins.
Brazil nuts, walnuts and pine nuts are also high in vitamins, iron and amino acids.
Flax, quinoa, sunflower, chia, pumpkin and sesame seeds are rich in omega-3, antioxidants, and calcium.
They don’t have much flavor but can be easily mixed into other foods for a protein boost.